The List for 2005

  notable books for 2005










Nonfiction   |    Poetry

The Notable Books Council of the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, selected these titles for their significant contribution to the expansion of knowledge or for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers.  View/print Adobe® Acrobat® version of list.


dust jacket of the lemon table Barnes, Julian. The Lemon Table. Knopf, $22.95 (1-4000-4214-3).
Eleven witty and dazzling stories share the common theme of aging but diverge in time, place, mood, and social milieu.
dust jacket of the half brother Christensen, Lars Saabye. The Half Brother. Arcade, $27 (1-55970-715-1).
In this epic Norwegian novel, commencing in World War II Oslo, an accomplished storyteller traces the lives of a matriarchal family over 50 years.
dust jacket of birds without wings De Bernières, Louis. Birds without Wings. Knopf, $25.95 (1-4000-4341-7). The harmony of life in an Anatolian village, with its quirky mix of Greek, Turkish, and Armenian ethnicities, is shattered by the nationalist politics of the early 1900s.
dust jacket of i sailed with magellan Dybek, Stuart. I Sailed with Magellan. Farrar, $24 (0-374-17407-5).
Dybek connects gently ironic stories of growing up and getting out in Polish American Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s.
dust jacket of the swallows of kabul Khadra, Yasmina. The Swallows of Kabul. Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $18.95 (0-385-51001-2).
Kabul under the Taliban provides the backdrop for this riveting, intimate novel of human frailty and societal degeneracy.
dust jacket of the madonna of excelsior Mda, Zakes. The Madonna of Excelsior. Farrar, $23 (0-374-20008-4).
A family at the center of an apartheid-era sex scandal confronts racial and social issues as South Africa moves from oppression to freedom.
dust jacket of cloud atlas Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas. Random, $14.95 (0-375-50725-6).
This tour de force of literary inventiveness weaves six tales written in six completely different styles into one richly resonant whole.
dust jacket of runaway Munro, Alice. Runaway. Knopf, $25 (1-4000-4281-X).
Flawless prose and peerless insight into human nature are Munro's gifts to the reader in eight short stories.
dust jacket of popular music from vittula Niemi, Mikael. Popular Music from Vittula. Seven Stories, $21.95 (1-58322-523-4).
The narrator's transition to adulthood on the Swedish-Finnish border in the 1960s juxtaposes magical and mundane experiences in a world long gone.
dust jacket of the plot against america Roth, Philip. The Plot against America. Houghton, $26 (0-618-50928-3).
In a chilling alternate history set in 1940s America, hero and anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh wins the presidency over FDR, and a Jewish family endures life in a new society.
dust jacket of old school Wolff, Tobias. Old School. Knopf, $22 (0-375-40146-6).
A scholarship student with literary ambitions and a shameful secret experiences an unforgettable year when his prep school is visited by Robert Frost and Ayn Rand.


dust jacket of alexander hamilton. Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin, $35 (1-59420-009-2).
This monumental biography presents a modern perspective on the Founding Father most responsible for the current state of American industry, economy, and government.
dust jacket of one with nineveh Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne E. One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future. Island, $27 (1-55963-879-6).
Relayed in a clarion voice, this powerful argument for saving the environment from disaster links social and economic policies with the empirical evidence of overpopulation and materialistic consumption.
dust jacket of washington's crossing Fischer, David Hackett. Washington's Crossing. Oxford, $30 (0-19-517034-2).
The full story of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware is brought vividly to life in this revisionist retelling of an iconic event in American history.
dust jacket of pandora's baby Henig, Robin Marantz. Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution. Houghton, $25 (0-618-22415-7).
A journalist engagingly presents the history of in vitro fertilization and the moral, ethical, and political controversies of reproductive technologies.
dust jacket of chain of command Hersh, Seymour M. Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. HarperCollins, $25.95 (0-06-019591-6).
Hersh exposes the military abuse in Abu Ghraib prison and the events leading up to it in this groundbreaking report.
dust jacket of goya Hughes, Robert. Goya. Knopf, $40 (0-394-58028-1).
With thoughtfulness and wit, Hughes refracts the art and life of Goya through the culture and history of Spain.
dust jacket of 1968: the year that rocked the world Kurlansky, Mark. 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. Ballantine, $26.95 (0-345-45581-9).
This engrossing account tells the complete story of the global, social, and political upheaval, warfare, and assassinations that define one year in a tumultuous decade.
dust jacket of outwitting history Lansky, Aaron. Outwitting History: How One Man Rescued a Million Books and Saved a Civilization. Algonquin, $24.95 (1-56512-429-4).
A 23-year-old student of Yiddish embarks on a crusade to save books in that language and succeeds in preserving the stories and culture of a vanishing world.
dust jacket of civil wars Moats, David. Civil Wars: A Battle for Gay Marriage. Harcourt, $25 (0-15-101017-X).
Moats offers an insightful account of the fierce battle that led to the legalization of civil unions in Vermont in 2001.
jacket of the 9/11 commission report National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks upon the United States. Authorized ed. Norton, $10 (0-393-32671-3).
This report, written with measure and depth, achieves a distinctly unified voice to explicate the traumas of 9/11 and the events leading up to it.
dust jacket of sea of glory Philbrick, Nathaniel. Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842. Viking, $27.95 (0-670-03231-X).
This dramatic account chronicles the little-known story of a six-vessel, 346-man U.S. exploring expedition that took four years, covered more than 84,000 miles, and expanded the role of science in the U.S.
dust jacket of the ticket out Sokolove, Michael. The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw. Simon & Schuster, $24.95 (0-7432-2673-9).
The individual stories of a vastly talented 1979 L.A. high-school baseball team come to life in this heartbreaking account of the players' last season and the difficulties they faced in the years that followed.
dust jacket of one man's castle Vine, Phyllis. One Man's Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream. HarperCollins/Amistad, $24.95 (0-06-621415-7).
Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African American physician, was defended by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial that is recounted as a stark reminder of U.S. racial hatred in the 1920s.


dust jacket of the collected poetry of nikki giovanni, 1968-1998. Giovanni, Nikki. The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1998. HarperCollins, $24.95 (0-06-054133-4).
African American activist Giovanni observes and embraces the world like few other poets; seize on these poems spanning three decades, and listen to her sing.
dust jacket of delights and shadows Kooser, Ted. Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon, $15 (1-55659-201-9).
These carefully crafted poems reflect a joy for life through powerful human images and intimate observations of everyday things.



Notable Books, 2005, committee members: Andrea C. Japzon (chair), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Mary Hegle Drewes, University of North Dakota Chester Fritz Library; Iva M. Freeman, Kendall College; Gloria Gehrman, Eugene Public Library; Steven Jablonski, Skokie Public Library; Helene Lafrance, Santa Clara University Orradre Library; Kathleen De La Pena McCook, University of South Florida; Charlene R. Rue, Brooklyn Public Library; Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr College; Sara Maxine Taffae, State Library of Louisiana; Miriam Tuliao, Long Beach Public Library; and Sarah Barbara Watstein, Virginia Commonwealth University; with Brad Hooper ( Booklist).